You know Byron Kerr from MASN and MASNSports.com where he writes about the Washington Nationals' organization and often hosts the Nats Xtra pregame and post-game shows. Mr. Kerr's also the host of the weekly Nats Insider show, and he contributes to Nats Talk Live. (LINK: Mr. Kerr's full bio). He's also on Twitter (@BKerr32), where he often releases recordings like the recent post game interview with Bryce Harper in which Harper said he knew he might get a few boos and hoped he didn't get hit by any batteries during the just-completed series with the Phillies. Dave Nichols, from the District Sports Page and I (Patrick Reddington, Federal Baseball(FBb)/SBNDC set up a quick chat with MASN's Mr. Kerr to talk about his coverage of the Nationals' minor leaguers, starting with 21-year-old 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke, who could be headed to an affiliate near you in the near future...
• Patrick Reddington (FBb/SBNDC): Byron, your recent reports on 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke have been interesting, do you have any idea if he’s had another injury or if he’s still building strength from the issues he had in college? He’s been talked about as a quick-to-the-majors-type, how advanced a pitcher is he at this point from what you’ve heard? In other words, how "quick-to-the-majors"?
Byron Kerr (MASN): The Nationals are being very careful about information regarding Purke’s health. He has had issues with his shoulder in the past so that leads me to believe that that is what is delaying his arrival. His recent five innings and expected five innings this week, plus reports that he has hit 92 mph are all good signs that he has built up his strength and could arrive in Potomac soon.
It is hard to qualify Purke as a "quick-to-the-majors" type, but that certainly was the word I got from Jim Callis of Baseball America regarding his high-end prospect status. I would be conservative in those assessments now and concentrate on seeing if he can make it through the season healthy. Potomac could certainly use his skill.
Dave Nichols (District Sports Page): Totally agree with Byron on the health issue. Purke was one of the top-rated arms in the country as a freshman and I’d have to imagine all he’d have to prove to the Nats this year is health. Anything he’d do performance-wise on the field this season is gravy.
• Patrick Reddington (FBb/SBNDC): Anthony Rendon’s now had serious injuries to both ankles to go along with the shoulder injury which limited him in his junior year at Rice and caused him to drop in the Draft. Should fans (or the Nats) be worried about his tendency to get injured? How much is his development set back by missing most if not all of this year?
Byron Kerr (MASN): No, this injury was not related to his other ankle injuries and I believe it was more of an unfortunate "accident" as he rounded a base. I don’t think fans should be worried. It is always tough to miss most of a season but I hope that Rendon will be able to get back by August and have a full month of play. Shutting him down for the whole season would not be good for his development, even a month of work is better than nothing for the entire season.
Dave Nichols (District Sports Page): Rendon told a Houston newspaper he didn’t see himself playing at all this season, saying, "I’m probably not going to come back this year." But as Byron said, I think the team still expects that if he can play at some point, he should. But this is his third major injury (both ankles, right shoulder). As with Purke, Rendon is going to have to prove healthy before anything else.
• Patrick Reddington (FBb/SBNDC): Is the Nats’ future CFer already in the organization? I know MLB.com’s Bill Ladson’s written about some in the organization thinking Michael Taylor’s that player. Brian Goodwin? Eury Perez? Those players are likely several years away, will Bryce Harper play there for the near future? Do you think the Nats can fill that role from within or will they be back on the FA market this winter?
Byron Kerr (MASN): Eury Perez is closest right now, maybe even Destin Hood. Perez needs to show complete commitment to the game and adopt a Lombardozzi type work ethic to make that next step. Taylor and Goodwin are well positioned but need games and tons of at-bats. Taylor is a leader on the field for his other outfielders. Goodwin just has raw speed and great skills, but with the quad injury, needs repetition.
I believe Mike Rizzo is always looking for that prototypical leadoff centerfielder, a Michael Bourn type. He found Gio Gonzalez off his wish list last season, and I am sure they would prefer Harper to be a corner outfielder. But maybe Lombardozzi is that leadoff man they have been looking for and the raw power of Michael Morse, Harper and Jayson Werth make it a big bat outfield. So, Rizzo is always looking, but the answer may be within the major league 25-man. I am hesitant with any of the prospects we mentioned, I still believe they are at least a season away, but that doesn’t mean the Nationals don’t have tremendous depth at the spot. They do.
Dave Nichols (District Sports Page): I saw Goodwin a couple of times at spring training. Even in intrasquad games he wasn’t afraid to take a walk. Couple that with a good pop/speed combo I’m intrigued by what he might be able to do. I think they’ll give Goodwin every opportunity to prove he does (or doesn’t) belong in center. On draft day, Mike Rizzo specifically said they think he has the athleticism to stick in center, going so far to say he is a "prototypical, top of the order, defensive-minded" center fielder.
• Patrick Reddington (FBb/SBNDC): I keep reading Hood projects as a corner outfielder. I've had only a few opportunities to see him in Spring Training, do either of you think he can he play center? Because the corners are crowded for a while now provided Harper and Werth can stay healthy.
Byron Kerr (MASN): I think Hood still needs more games in the outfield. Outfield coordinator Tony Tarasco said Hood is doing a better job of rounding to fly balls rather than tracking them like he would in his football days. Hood has made great strides in tracking the speed of the baseball. I believe you are right with Hood as a corner outfielder, but his sheer athleticism keeps him in the mix to move up. The Nats told me he won’t play center fielder unless he has to, so corner outfield seems spot on.
• Dave Nichols (District Sports Page): Is Matt Skole going to stick at third base? We’re not even to June and he has 13 errors already. His power looks legit, but what about his approach (plate discipline, etc.)?
Byron Kerr (MASN):He has been working a lot on his footwork and decision making with infield coordinator Jeff Garber. Remember, he was just in Auburn. His offensive numbers show that he can hit and a full season at Hagerstown will do him well to improve his fielding, too. I think it is too early to move him away from third base.
• Byron Kerr (MASN): I have received updates on Danny Rosenbaum. They love what they see from him and his ability to make decisions in game and adjust to each scenario on the fly. His stuff has late movement and he is showing good control. The Nats will not move him up yet and want him to see each of the team’s in the Eastern league a couple more times to see how he adjusts to how they approach him this time.
Patrick Reddington (FBb/SBNDC): I should apologize to Rosenbaum for asking about Purke before him since Purke hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch. Rosenbaum’s 24 at Double-A, he seems to be on the Tom Milone and Brad Peacock path. The 0.94 BB/9 stand out. Was a little worried about the major league-ready depth after Peacock and Milone were dealt, but if Rosenbaum gets to Triple-A this or next year, can you see him at the back end of a Stras, Gio, Zimmermann-led rotation?
Byron Kerr (MASN): Absolutely, he has the kind of mind set, like Milone, where he is smart enough to make adjustments during a game or even an at-bat to keep the opponent off balance. I think that is what will separate Rosenbaum from just another guy with marketable stuff. But, again, I get the feeling that they want to see him work a full season against top prospects before they move him.
• Patrick Reddington (FBb/SBNDC): One last question: Do either of you have an under-the-radar prospect, someone who isn’t getting the press but is impressing? Mine’s not so much under the radar, and not really a prospect at his age, but maybe unexpected, I’m kind of impressed with Yunesky Maya so far this year. I will endure all the criticism I get for saying that too, just can’t believe the scouts in the Nats’ front office could have seen him throw like he has so far in the majors and been impressed enough to sign him. I’m not giving up on him making a contribution before he’s done.
Dave Nichols (District Sports Page): I don’t know how much of a legitimate prospect OF Billy Burns is, but the 32nd round pick from last year’s draft is tearing up the South Atlantic League for Hagerstown. He’s a little guy (5’9", 180) but is hitting .295 with a ridiculous .438 OBP in 35 games and has stolen 17-of-19 bases.
Byron Kerr (MASN): Burns is getting rave reviews because of his lightning speed. A top Nats source told me that he thinks Burns is better than Rays outfielder Rich Thompson at the same times in their respective minor league careers. In the early innings of the game I saw him play in early May, he beat out an infield single and also stole two bases in another inning. Pardon the pun, but Burns is a "steal" in the 32nd round.
Keep an eye on former George Washington left-hander Bobby Lucas. He is throwing exclusively out of the bullpen now. Lucas has done a good job of mixing his off speed stuff in and has a better command of his changeup and curveball. Lucas allowed only two earned runs in his last 10 appearances, sporting a 1.42 ERA during that span. The kid also earned his Master’s degree while working through spring training and was rewarded by the Nationals with a trip to graduation last week.
Thanks, Byron and Dave.